Joan Jett is one of my favorite female rockers of all-time, and I’ve been wanting to do a post about her ever since I started this blog. However, Jett‘s career spans decades and there’s plenty of information already out there about her. So, instead, I decided to write a random musing about a Jett side-project called Evil Stig, in which she joined the surviving members of the influential ’90s rock band The Gits. But, first, let’s get all historical and talk about The Gits and their late singer, Mia Zapata …
The Gits, a female-fronted punk band, formed in OH, in the late 80’s, but relocated to Seattle, WA, and, in the early 90’s, as the Seattle grunge scene was brewing, they, driven by Zapata’s persona, were mistakenly considered part of the feminist riot grrrl movement (even though they weren’t really a riot grrrl band) that followed in grunge’s wake, in Olympia, WA, with bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. In 1992, The Gits released their awesome debut, Frenching The Bully. Then, in 1993, while recording the follow-up, Enter: The Conquering Chicken, Mia Zapata was brutally raped and murdered. The case went unsolved for 11 years. Zapata’s story was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries in 1996, in which Joan Jett appeared, and, then on other shows, like CBS‘s 48 Hours and FOX‘s America’s Most Wanted, on which Jett also appeared. But, Zapata’s murder remained unsolved until 2003 when a DNA profile led the authorities to Cuban-American Jesus Mezquia, who was convicted of Zapata’s murder in 2004.
But, before the TV shows, shortly after Zapata was murdered, Joan Jett, a fan of The Gits, began her collaboration with riot grrrl Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill. Jett was, undoubtedly, the first riot grrrl, inspiring Hannah and many others. Their collaboration began in 1993 when Jett produced Bikini Kill‘s single “New Radio/Rebel Girl”. Jett even played guitar on “Rebel Girl”. Then, in 1994, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, with reinvigorated attitude, released Pure and Simple, their eighth studio album, which was, until 2006, the best album Jett had ever recorded. She co-wrote several songs with Kathleen Hannah, including “Go Home”, “Activity Grrrl”, “Spinster” and, my favorite, the snotty punker “You Got A Problem”. At the end of the video for “Go Home” which was written in response to Zapata’s murder, Jett added a plea for information on the murder of Mia Zapata. The surviving members of The Gits saw the video and asked Joan Jett to tour with them to raise money for the murder investigation. She agreed but didn’t want them to be known as Joan Jett & The Gits, so they settled on Evil Stig which, of course, is “Gits Live” backwards. They toured in early 1995 performing songs by both The Gits and The Blackhearts, then, released a self-titled live CD. Watch the video for “Go Home” here:
Evil Stig, the CD, opens with Zapata’s sadly prophetic “Sign of the Crab”:
Never ceases to amaze me the things you try to pull
Anything to get me in and then get me killed
Go ahead and slice me up, spread me all across this town
Cause you know you’re the one that won’t be found
Two months after Zapata recorded that song, she was killed and the murderer wasn’t found for 11 years! Now, as far as the rest of The Gits tracks go, “Another Shot of Whiskey”, is badass sung by either Zapata (who had an amazing whiskey-soaked voice) or Jett, and, it’s definitely my favorite Gits song. But, “Guilt Within Your Head” comes up close as my second favorite, which Jett sings equally awesome as well. “Another Shot of Whiskey” is one of several songs about drinking. Mia was a drinker, and, was, in fact, murdered on her way home from a bar. The other drinking songs are the aptly-named “The Drinking Song” and “Drunks”. “Second Skin” is another cool track, too, which was also covered by the punk/metal band Nemhain, whom I recently posted about. “Spear & The Magic Helmet” is definitely the most hardcore punk Jett’s ever been. “Bob (Cousin O.)” and “Whirlwind” round out The Gits set list. In the latter, Jett sings along with Mia Zapata’s pre-recorded voice. All good choices, but here are three Gits songs I would have loved to have heard Evil Stig perform: (1) “It All Dies Anyway”, (2) “Cut My Skin, It Makes Me Human”, and (3) “Precious Blood”. Watch this video of Evil Stig performing “Another Shot of Whiskey/You Got A Problem” here:
With Evil Stig, Joan Jett shows off the punk she always wanted to be, a fact that seems to have been forgotten by most people who only know her hits. Jett was immersed in the punk scene. The Runaways rose to fame in the midst of New York’s punk scene (the Ramones, Richard Hell, etc), rode on with the rising London punk scene (The Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc), and, then, helped to foster the LA punk scene (X, The Germs, etc). She even produced, at their request, The Germs‘ one and only officially released album! The Runaways toured with the Ramones, and Jett and Joey forged a bond with their mutual love of rock music; and, Stiv Bators, of the seminal Cleveland punk band The Dead Boys, said Joan Jett was the coolest chick he’d ever met.
By the way, in 2006, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts released their ninth studio album, Sinner, which is the absolute best album, overall, that Joan Jett has ever released, bar none! “Riddles” in which Jett aimed her left-wing ideals at then President George W Bush, is a favorite. “Naked”, “Everyone Knows” and “Change the World” are awesome, too. “Five”, “Baby Blue”, “Tube Talkin'” and “Watersign” are more cool songs co-written with Kathleen Hannah, and “Androgynous” is a cover of The Replacements‘ song. Jett was 47 when she recorded the album, and her voice sounded better than ever, especially on the slower songs. On e-Music, someone wrote: “Maybe I’m too old now, but it sounds like Joan is screaming at me.” Yes, you are too old.
Someday I’ll post more about Joan Jett …